There’s no doubt that Brooklyn has changed and is still experiencing changes daily – one thing’s for sure there is a great need to preserve the things that make our Brooklyn, Brooklyn and that was exactly the idea of two local artists.
I was on my way to Oaxaca Taqueria for lunch yesterday when I noticed a few parked cars blasting MUSIC from Brooklyn’s own Christopher Wallace, known as the Notorious B.I.G or Biggie Smalls. The onlookers were observing something on a building – the excitement expressed certainly caught my attention and I crossed the street to see what was happening. I was in awwwww at the large mural featuring the famed rapper.
Naoufal Alaoui also known as “Rocko” and Scott “Zimmer” Zimmerman collaborated on the 38-foot high work of art. The idea for the mural has been in the making for quite some time and was self-funded by the artists. I had the pleasure of speaking with Rocko this morning to find out the driving force for the collaborative piece. The artist, a native of Morocco came to Brooklyn 15 years ago because Brooklyn and Hip-hop have been an influence on his life. He wanted to be in the most diverse place on earth – a place he fell in love with from afar. The artist moved here and wasn’t disappointed he’s still in love with the Brooklyn Vibe and the diversity – he said: “everyone loves Brooklyn and it doesn’t matter where in the world you’re from.” What an accurate statement!
Rocko, a calligraphy artist along with his collaborator NYC native Zimmer began working on the piece in his studio and they are extremely pleased with the finished portrait, not only because of the sense of satisfaction the finish installation brings but the LOVE expressed from people all over Brooklyn. The artist excitedly touched on the stories he heard from neighborhood residents about his beloved rapper. Stories that shed light on whom the Notorious B.I.G really was – he didn’t represent “violence” (contrary to rumors) but rather he was the community, he cares about his community and the people – he was a kind soul.
The location for the installation was chosen because of what it meant to the famed rapper and that was evident when Old Gold Brothers (OGB) and DJ 50 Grand who were very influential on the rapper’s early career made their way to the installation over the weekend to celebrate Biggie.
At the intersection of Bedford Avenue and Quincy Street, you can admire the work of art. The giant portrait of Biggie Smalls features the rapper with a large crown on his head w/giant lettering above which reads “King of NY” – Large red and gold lettering grace the face of the building showcasing lyrics of the late rapper’s music. Lyrics from the song “Unbelievable” from the classic Ready to Die album was noticeable.
While most of what I know of the famed rapper Biggie Smalls, I know from conversations I’ve had with my husband when we started dating 18 years ago (when I knew absolutely nothing about hip hop) – I do know that Biggie and Brooklyn go together. As we encounter an ever-changing Brooklyn, Works of Art like this installation is what makes us all remember what Brooklyn truly means to us.
Seeing the onlookers celebrate and pay homage to the rapper, I was happy I had my camera on hand. This piece is not only to be admired by fans of the Notorious B.I.G but by everyone who loves Brooklyn, both then and now. This installation and the story surrounding it tells us something important – it tells us that our beloved Brooklyn is what it is today not only because of its history but because of people from all over the world who moved here and brought bits and pieces of their culture. Whether the move was because they were looking for a better life or are like Rocko, whose lives were influenced by the borough and its culture from afar. Remembering what Brooklyn means to each of us, preserving or encouraging community and embracing everything that makes Brooklyn, Brooklyn is necessary to conserve the place we call home.
Support this tribute to Biggie by taking pictures of this mural and sharing with others not only because he represented Brooklyn in every way possible, the way most of us do every day through our words, our actions and the care we express towards our community. Preserve Brooklyn’s history regardless of the changes our borough is experiencing by caring more and supporting your community or one day we’ll wake up and won’t recognize our beloved Brooklyn.
A special Thank you to Rocko for responding to my email and taking time out to share his story with me.
Photo Via Brooklyn’s Lifestyle